HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Highway 603 in Hancock County is now brighter and safer to travel at night. Wednesday night, Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame flipped the switch on 135 new street lights along a six mile stretch of the roadway from I-10 to Highway 90.
As one of the most traveled roadways in Hancock County, the lights on Highway 603 were a badly needed safety feature.
"I don't know of anybody that has driven this stretch of highway at night that was not just a little bit unnerved by the darkness and by the barrenness of the darkness," said Mayor Fillingame. "We can all remember just several years ago when this was one of the most deadly stretches of highway in the country."
He's not exaggerating. According to the State Department of Transportation, 43 people have lost their lives in traffic accidents on Highway 603 during the past 10 years, including a highway patrolman.
Before the road was four laned in the early 90s, a bumper sticker that read, "Pray For Me, I Drive 603" was the sentiment of many motorists.
"It was a dangerous highway. Like they used to say, 'Pray for me, I drive 603.' And they meant it," said Bay St. Louis Acting Police Chief Mike DeNardo.
Drivers who travel the roadway daily say street lights are just what was needed.
"It's going to mean people can see where they're going. It's something that's been way overdue," said Bay St. Louis resident Charles Johnson.
Antoine Saucier of Hancock County echoed his words.
"It's a big improvement to Highway 603."
And those improvements will save lives. The $700,000 lighting project was funded by federal stimulus dollars funneled through M-DOT.